The Bleachers King: Alaska's skid

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Nov 21 2012 04:05 PM | Updated as of Nov 22 2012 12:32 AM

November 18, 2012
Smart Araneta Coliseum

This one is going to hurt.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel kept plugging away then took advantage of a spate of costly errors by the Alaska Aces to pull out a 96-93 win that saw the Kings win their third straight while their victims dropped their fourth consecutive match.

Two errors, one unforced, by the normally steady Jayvee Casio and a huge extra possession helped Ginebra overcome the tough Aces who controlled the match for large stretches. Alaska looked in control and ready to get back on the winning track after RJ Jazul drilled a triple with two Kings all over him to make it 80-72 with 10:17 left to play.

The basic game plan was to stop two players who controlled Ginebra’s fate on a nightly basis – LA Tenorio and Mark Caguioa. The Aces were supposed to trap Tenorio but their guards kept their former teammate busy by torching him for 28 points through the combined contributions of Casio, Jazul, and Raphy Reyes. Caguioa is a volume shooter but the Aces were supposed to make him work hard on offense and Cyrus Baguio did a good job of keeping the offensive dynamo from unloading his usual barrage from the outside.

However, they were not able to account for Billy Mamaril, whose physicality caused Alaska’s Sonny Thoss and Sam Eman to get into foul trouble. Without rookie Calvin Abueva who was in the hospital with an infection, Alaska was killed on the boards 47-34 with a 17-11 advantage on the offensive glass.

Caguioa held to 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, was 6-of-11 from the field and 6-of-12 from the free throw line in the second half as Ginebra worked to get their primary offensive weapon untracked. His floater in the lane off a bounce pass by Willy Wilson with 34 seconds left gave his team a 95-93 lead they would not relinquish. Prior to that, Casio saw the ball bounce off his foot while driving towards the basket. After Caguioa’s shot, Casio tried to work a pick and roll with Jazul but the Kings bull rushed him and Tenorio picked him off.

The Kings were unable to score but rookie Chris Ellis, 12 points and five rebounds, snared a damaging extra possession when he threw the ball off Baguio along the sideline. Caguioa tacked on one more free throw to close out the scoring.

Alaska was hurt also by three former Aces in Tenorio, Wilson and Elmer Espiritu. Tenorio was the Aces chief playmaker for four-and-a-half seasons where he led them to a championship and two second-place finishes. He was traded in the off-season. In his four full seasons with Alaska, Tenorio averaged over 12 points per game, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists, and one steal a game. When things soured for Alaska following their 13th title and the departure of Tim Cone, Tenorio’s game went into decline. He re-discovered his form recently with Smart Gilas in the last William Jones Cup where he was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament.

While Alaska’s guard torched him in the early goings, he got back in the second half with a triple that had the Smart Araneta Coliseum rocking and to bring Ginebra just three points behind, 80-77 with time down to 9:21 (off an assist by Chris Ellis).

He assisted on a three-point play by Caguioa off a foul by Dondon Hontiveros to make it 80-79, Alaska (the Spark flubbed the free throw attempt) and got the huge steal off Casio in the final minute of play.

Wilson, who was drafted by Alaska in 2004 played for the Aces for three seasons. The talented utility player tallied six points, three rebounds and two assists with all his contributions coming in the fourth period.

Espiritu was Alaska’s first-round draft pick in 2010 but hardly saw playing time after the Aces won their 13th title. Espiritu’s confidence plummeted as he was repeatedly benched. He was subsequently traded to Barako Bull and Shopinas the following year. With Ginebra where his style of play fits, he was stoked to play the club that drafted him but never used him. The former UE Red Warriors scored nine points and pulled down three boards.

Alaska countered Ginebra’s onslaught with the clutch play of Cyrus Baguio who also showed Caguioa that he too can score with style and hit clutch baskets. Jazul and Baracael were also solid for Alaska as they punctured the hoops with terrific outside shooting. But after Eman and Thoss fouled out so did Alaska’s capability to deal with the athletic frontline of Ginebra.

The good vibes generated by Abueva’s arrival has long dissipated.

Before the Aces entered the court, they were as loose as any winning ballclub. They had played well but crumbled in the endgame during their skid. For the three holdovers of their last title team – Thoss, Baguio, and Tony dela Cruz – this one recalls the Fiesta Conference of 2010 when they won four straight before losing five straight that put a huge damper on their entire campaign. They are now 5-6 and in the bottom half while Ginebra has continued its climb up the standings and is now at 5-5.

A dejected Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo headed out of the Smart Araneta Coliseum with his forehead knotted. “There has to be an answer for this,” he said then walked out into the dark night.

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